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Abu Dhabi launches Public Art Biennale to light up cultural calendar

Tan KW
Publish date: Mon, 27 Mar 2023, 01:01 PM
Tan KW
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Biennials form the backbone of the cultural calendar.

Many countries have their own international art events, including Italy, Brazil, Germany and the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf state, which already hosts the Sharjah Biennale, has announced plans to launch another similar art event in Abu Dhabi.

This new artistic event is called the Abu Dhabi Public Art Biennale.

It will be led by Reem Fadda, director of the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation and Abu Dhabi Cultural Programmes, and the independent curator Galit Eilat. As the name suggests, this event will focus on public art, unlike the Sharjah Biennial, which takes a more multidisciplinary approach.

For Reem Fadda, this distinct focus will set the Public Art Abu Dhabi Biennale apart from other art biennials around the world.

"You're going to walk in the city and see art. People don't know the work the (Abu Dhabi) Department of Culture and Tourism has been doing. For example, there's been a 10-year project involving mapping modern heritage elements of the city, from its buildings to their small cafes, to the old shops, which we call urban treasures," she told The Art Newspaper.

The inaugural edition of the Public Art Abu Dhabi Biennalewill take place in Nov 2024.

The organisers of this event have already unveiled WAVE, a public digital media artwork by the South Korean art collective d'strict, in the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation.

This 2D installation recreates three-dimensional waves in perpetual motion, using an anamorphic optical illusion technique. It was first presented at COEX K-Pop Square in Seoul, South Korea.

A question of soft power

This biennial will be financed by an annual budget of US$35mil provided by the emirate's Department of Culture and Tourism. A budget that will allow, among other things, the commissioning of various public art installations from Emirati and international artists.

These will be installed in various spaces in Abu Dhabi and will be inspired by the distinctive features of the Emirati capital.

"(Abu Dhabi) has a proud tradition of public art, which we are now elevating with our ambitious Public Art Abu Dhabi initiatives. These will foster creativity, placemaking and cultural infrastructure, while ensuring that public art is integral to our emirate’s cultural identity, liveability, and attractiveness to visitors," said HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the emirate's Department of Culture and Tourism, in a statement.

The launch of this new art event can be seen as part of the UAE's soft power strategy. Like its neighbours on the Arabian Peninsula, the country has made culture an instrument of foreign policy, as evidenced by the opening of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum in 2025.

This museum of modern and contemporary art, designed by architect Frank Gehry, will feature numerous galleries of varying forms and styles, housing more than 600 artworks acquired over the past 12 years.

The institution will be the largest Guggenheim ever built, ahead of those in Bilbao and New York. This will further enhance the UAE's standing on the international cultural scene.

 - AFP

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